Imagine that you are a student in your freshman year at college and you are among a group of high achievers called the ‘A group’ that are consistently earning straight As in all of your course work.
You are the envy of the freshman class and all the college professors marvel at how you and this group of high achievers are able to effortlessly, it seems, attain these consistently high grades while the majority of the class is struggling to get by with some Cs, but mostly Ds and Fs.
It doesn’t matter that some of the folks that are in the A group are naturally gifted while others just have a ridiculously efficient work regiment, all members in this group always achieve high grades and it is very evident to all onlookers.
Then suddenly, in walks the Principal of the college declaring:
I’m going to take a portion of those in the A groups’ grades and give it to those at the very bottom who need this help to survive academically. After All, you guys should be willing to give something up as people who’ve been extraordinarily blessed academically, you should be willing to give up some of the good grades that you enjoy, and, I actually think this is going to make academic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’
What would you do? Is this a sound argument? What right does the Principal have to muck with your grades, after all, he didn’t earn them, did he? He does not own your grades, does he?
This analogy may not be a perfect representation of the current “revenue redistribution” argument; in fact, all analogies break down at some point; however, I believe it is a good illustration of the difficulties that lie in the belief that Counties that are referred to as ‘marginalised’ should continue receiving more money yet their returns are hardly seen. While regions like Mt Kenya continue to sustain the government with their unmatched returns yet they are receiving peanuts from the same government that they are sustaining.
Over the last couple of weeks, Kenyans have been closely following the debate on the sharing of revenue among the County governments. There is currently a deadlock over the formula that the Commission on Revenue Allocation came up with.
It should not be lost to any of us that this is the third formula since we kicked off devolution and is as a result of lessons from the last seven years. There is also agreement that the current revenue-sharing formula is without a doubt insufficient.
The Constitution envisages revenue sharing based on equity, but also one that uplifts poorer Counties. However, there is also consensus that a more developed County such as Nairobi with its huge population cannot be disadvantaged in favour of let’s say Lamu, as they both have different needs.
Lamu might prioritise road construction while Nairobi’s hospitals may need much more funding to cater to the huge population. And this is just the nature of devolution and what it is supposed to achieve.
Therefore, the revenue-sharing formula must be fair and must support one man, one vote, and one shilling. And this is why in this debate, other than arguing about who is losing what or who is gaining what, we must seek to address the question of what is equitable and fair.
The formula, according to CRA, seeks to address six primary objectives: To enhance service delivery, to promote balanced development, to incentivise Counties, to optimise capacity, to raise revenue, and to incentivise prudent use of public resources.